Real talk: In the world of healthy eating, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of pigeonholing certain foods as “good” and others as “bad” based on their perceived health benefits (or lack thereof).
The problem is, making those sorts of declarations can seriously jack up your relationship with food. Self-proclaimed foodie (and one of our 2018 Wellness Winners) Amanda Parker knows firsthand how dangerous that slippery slope can be—so this year she vowed to stay away from the edge.
“Demonizing food to me is a fast track to failure,” she says. “There are enough messages swirling around in this world telling you that you’re not enough, you don’t need to add peanut butter to the list of things that can send you spiraling.” Word.
“There are enough messages swirling around in this world telling you that you’re not enough, you don’t need to add peanut butter to the list.”
But fully adopting that philosophy is tough—especially as someone who reads cookbooks for fun and travels to sample different cuisines, but who also spent most of her life medically overweight.
In her search for balance, Parker found the Weight Watchers Freestyle program, which prioritizes enjoying food while still helping people meet their weight-loss goals. With over 200 foods on the the newly expanded zero Points® food list, you can eat super-satisfying foods like eggs, beans, and chicken breast with no guilt (freeing you up to eat more of the foods you love).
“I think Freestyle works because it’s about making the better choice, not the best choice,” Parker says. “It incentivizes you to make healthy food choices, not deprive yourself. There is no going hungry because there is always something you can have, since so many foods are zero Points®.”
Scroll down for her 4 tips on how to erase food guilt (while still enjoying the good stuff).
Keep track of what you’re putting into your body
Her first tip for finding freedom from food guilt: Log what you’re eating. “It can feel like that would limit you, but it’s actually really empowering,” Parker says. “You already like food. You probably already took a picture of it and posted it to Instagram. Why not write it down so you can be more conscious of it?”
Before joining WW, Parker kept a hand-written journal—and now uses the Weight Watchers app to log her meals (which also makes it easy to track her SmartPoints® for the day). Double win.
Focus on what you can control
“Being a foodie means I see food as human expression and connection, not just sustenance,” Parker says. But going out to eat can be a wildcard when you’re trying to keep track of your intake.
“If I know I’m going to that great new place I’ve been wanting to try, I look at the meals I can control leading up to that, like breakfast, lunch, and even dinner the night before,” she says. “I choose things that are as clean and vegetable-forward as I can, so by the time I get to that special meal, I have no negative feelings holding me back from ordering exactly what I want.” Talk about balance.
Figure out what foods you *truly* love
Deciding on your definition of “healthy” means you’re going to have a DTR (define the relationship) moment with food. If you know your sister’s homemade cookies always fill you with joy (but not so much for those coffee cart doughnuts), setting boundaries will ultimately contribute to your overall wellness.
“[Weight Watchers has helped me] learn what’s worth it,” Parker says. “Like three Points® for two chocolate squares: Worth it. Three Points® for a tiny bag of chips: Not worth it. If it’s not going to help me feel more energized or feel better in my body, it’s not worth it. I think that’s a better strategy than letting an inanimate object determine whether you’re ‘good’ or ‘bad.’”
Invest in yourself
Doing things that make you feel happy and healthy is one of the best practices you can implement to nix food guilt. For Parker, those investments have come through keeping her food log, practicing yoga, and exercising semi-regularly. “When I do those things—take that time to take care of my mind and my body—I’m less inclined to screw it up by eating something that could throw me totally out of whack.”
And if she does get thrown off track (because life happens)? That’s okay too. “I’m learning to love my body by focusing more on what it is than what it isn’t,” she says. “My body is incredibly resilient. Focusing on that is how I’m working towards that goal of self love.”
Top photo: @KaiMitt via Twenty20